It’s been a while since I’ve taken time to look over just how Final Fantasy XIV is going these days. Just about nine months in fact. The next expansion, Endwalker, has been announced, and I’m busily avoiding as much spoiler material as I can.

I did, however, get the benchmarker and try it out, along with a bun-boy.

Not that I have time for alts, mind you….

Spoilery discussion of patches 5.4 and 5.5 ahead…

The latest two big content patches of course have set up the plot for the next big story arc, the one that’s apparently going to finish off the main arc of all of this, and then everything after that will effectively be a sequel.

But first, lets talk about Ishgard:

The restoration finished up in January, and was a pretty neat series of events (if so overcrowded it made character rendering… random). The fact that it’s turned into a continuing, non-world-event set of tasks is very nice. Of course, we’ve got this entire new area, and just a few things to do with it. There’ll be housing around this, right? Right…? There are also a couple of new “custom delivery” persons in the new area, which means it can’t be ignored, and Ehll Tou is a great chain worth doing.

And speaking of crafting, I’ve finally gotten all crafting and gathering classes up to 80 (got fishing there just last week!). I need to get back on to working on the ‘relic weapons’ for them; but my gumption ran out a bit ago, and I haven’t managed to get back on that horse-bird yet.

Speaking of relics, the main weapon chain has been trouble. The story for Bozja was overall good and well done. The main zones you go through are dangerous, intense, and grindy. It’s basically the same formula as Eureka there. Then there’s the three instance/dungeons. We’ve done the first and third, and will probably never go back to them. High stress, and the kind of grind that brings out the worst sorts of players in droves. There’s some interesting encounter design going on, but it’s also very hard to follow. And, they’re hard to get into (which drives up the percentage of problem people), since you need to be in the grinding zone at the time the limited availability window opens. In a way, it’s their version of Mordrem Vinewrath, but that generally had a lot less drama than this inflicts, possibly because of reward differences.

The dungeon in the middle, Delubrum Reginae, is much easier to get into, but was it’s own form of hell at first. First off, Bozja has it’s own “currency/leveling” mechanic (mettle) that determines what you can do and your story progression. Death costs mettle, and I couldn’t avoid dying several times a run, putting me at a net loss each time. After it was no longer the top-end, it started awarding enough mettle that I was gaining mettle from it. And I don’t die as often now.

The trouble is that there’s a lot of mechanics in there that are fairly advanced, and some of which I just can’t see, and some of which tend to happen off the top of my screen. The real problem is that the dungeon uses a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy. You don’t take a lot of damage from some of these, but if you miss two during the same fight, you die; no healing through it, no stacking vulnerability making easier to get killed, you just die. The first month, going in there would give me a major headache as I tried to keep up with what was going on. Now that I’m more used to it, and the stakes have been lowered, I enjoy it, but I do not appreciate the insta-death.

Back in the main story, things have been interesting, and definitely showing signs of headed for that promised conclusion. The Eorzean Alliance is actually reaching towards a peace with the various beast tribes, which would mark a fundamental shift in the politics of the continent. The Garlean Empire is coming apart, thanks in part to the fact that the capital is now something of a wasteland… which has to do with the latest evil Ascian plot.

Along with everything else (like the start of a new round of primal battles), there were clear indications that we’ll finally get to see Sharlayan (generally confirmed by the benchmarker), and we’ve already gotten to see Alphiaud and Alisae’s father. That got fan reactions.

It says a lot for the writing that one (admittedly quite dramatic) scene can stir up such emotions. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface; the last couple patches have done a great job of pulling up characters we haven’t seen in a while, and picking up their plot thread again. Of course, there’s still a few things that Square hasn’t picked up recently, and Smudge has been good enough to give a guide to them.

The next couple of months are sort of ‘find things to do’ time, though there’s still plenty for me to be getting on with. I’ve nearly leveled up White Mage, and need to start thinking about what’s next, we’re finishing up the facet turn-ins, and I have several more beast tribes to get to. (Oh, that is a disappointment, it seems like the usual ‘tie the beast tribes together’ quest for Shadowbringers is canceled. At least we’d expect to have seen it by now.)